Sextiped Valley column: A future for pets?
I do believe our animal companions are the best of us. In return for our company, they give us everything they have to give. They receive our love, for as long, and to whatever extent, we give it, but they have no power to compel us to do anything.
If we fall on hard times, if we are over-committed, even if we just lose interest, we are pretty much free to walk away, to betray or abandon them. Is this completely voluntary (on our part) relationship what causes us such regret when we fail them? I’ve seen how deeply remorse has troubled the hearts of many animal advocates and rescuers I’ve known.
The reason I bring it up now is that I sense an approaching decision of no return for us — those of us, anyway, living in this part of the world where we’ve admitted our devotion to, even our need for, our pets. We’re realizing that we’ve built our societies upon the assumption that pets are luxuries, expendable.
And thereby, slowly, incrementally, we’ve forced them to live under circumstances that warp and constrict their very natures. We’ve protected them, and our need for them, in much the way Chinese aristocrats once “protected” their most valued women by binding their feet.
The housing crisis that is upon us can wake us to the need to affirm pets’ importance to us, and hence to begin to plan the future communities that will accommodate them. Will there be time?
Every week there are more angry tweets, posts and articles that reveal intolerance, displaying our low expectations of pets in public places: fouling streets, attacking children and causing traffic accidents.
We’re told to leave them at home when it’s too hot or cold to leave them in the car while we do errands. It doesn’t occur to us to suggest that they should be welcome to accompany us.
Pets who have been excluded from public spaces don’t know how to behave there. But many of us who travel have encountered communities where they do, beautifully. Even in the densest of European cities, pets go everywhere with their humans — and sometimes without them, waiting at the train station, the bus stop, sitting politely under tables at restaurants and cafes.
It isn’t that European dogs and cats have different DNA. It is that American ones have been forced out of sight, prevented from developing the socially cooperative aspects of their natures.
Happily, there is a growing sense of urgency driving welcome changes. No one is demanding that we tolerate disruptive pet behavior in public venues, but we must accord them scope for learning — as we do for our children. Skilled trainers valleywide are eagerly taking up the challenge, guiding small classes as they learn to safely and politely navigate city streets, shops and sports events.
There is a new valleywide forum of pet trainers forming, who can provide the needed skill and experience. Our local Roaring Fork Kennel Club recently decided to promote activities geared toward integrating dogs responsibly and joyfully into the public realm. One well-established route is the AKC’s CGC, or Canine Good Citizen, certificate program.
In the 30-plus years of its existence, a million dogs have achieved this award, by passing a simple but rigorous test of public manners. They’re not service dogs, therapy dogs, or even “emotional support” dogs in a formal sense. They are pets. Companions who proudly accompany us and are welcome everywhere, because they inspire and delight.
Once the basic rules of comportment are learned, opportunities for fun and satisfaction flourish.
From 9 a.m. till noon Sunday, Aug. 4, at Gregory Park in West Glenwood, the Kennel Club and many area dog trainers, their canine pupils and alumni bring you an opportunity to watch — and even try out — a host of fun doggy activities — like cart-joring, nose work, and tracking (see if your dog can find your hiding child).
Give your dog a chance to show off his beauty and obedience in a practice show ring — or just get inspired to be ready next year. Come even if you don’t have a dog and enjoy the local talent, and talk to knowledgeable folks about what sort of dog might be just right for you.
An AKC CGC evaluator will be testing applicants for the certificate, if you think your dog is ready. Even if — especially if — he’s not there yet, learn how you and he can earn this basic credential of entree into a future where the human canine bond is celebrated and secure.
For more information, email RFKC secretary at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Laurie Raymond owns High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs.
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